EMCWorld 2010 : A Week to Remember

Even though EMCWorld has been over for a few weeks I still wanted I get this post out telling my experience. I have been so busy that I just now got this finished.

I have not had a very long career. In fact compared to most of the guys on the team I belong to, I am the newborn calf quivering on shaky legs. But, I can say that I have had a pretty exciting one so far. I have never been short on challenges and deadlines. And I have always been surrounded by incredibly skilled people (especially now). That said, without a doubt, EMCWorld 2010 was the pinnacle of my career so far.

I really do not know how to recap everything. In some parts I am going to feel like I am bragging (which I hate to do). In others, that I am taking credit for what is essentially just good timing. But I feel this experience needs to be shared and I will try my best to keep it simple. This is longer than my normal posts so I ask your forgiveness ahead of time.

Really, a combination of events built upon each other starting with VMware’s Tech Summit. I got invited by Chris Horn (a newly married guy now) a fellow vSpecialist to help him build the lab with Stephen Spellicy, Tee Glasgow, and Brian Lewis. The idea to use the Celerra VSA for this was not mine; but it was through this first exposure I started down the road in creating the Celerra VSA UBER edition.

To help with the Tech Summit labs I created the new UBER VSA, wrote lab control PowerShell scripts, and built most of the VCenter stuff within. Because there were issues related to some bad hardware I volunteered to show up early to Tech Summit in San Francisco and make sure everything was up for when the crew that was going to run the lab arrived.

Arriving early ended up being a good idea but with a team effort the labs went perfectly.

Because of my help with the TechSummit labs I got asked to help with the VPlex demo for EMCWorld. This started out with just ironing out some issues. Next thing you know I am taking ideas from Chad and Stephen Spellicy and turning them into monitoring tabs and plugins to automate the demo.

For weeks up to EMCWorld I was furiously coding away trying to make everything perfect. I must have performed over 50,000 VMotions on the VPlex. I even wrote a program that would do an entire teleport of 500 VM’s from one site to another, collect statistics on timing and performance, and then move them back. This would run continuously allowing me to test different aspects(tune) and ensure stability.

I left TechSummit early, got home, changed the clothes in my suitcase, and hopped a plane to North Carolina for a week of training. And from training I went straight to EMCWorld.

It was on the plane to EMCWorld that I had the idea to create something that allows the audience to see the teleports happening in real time. I ended up writing a C# WebApp that used AJAX to pull metrics from the vTeleport plugin I wrote and update asynchronously to a vCenter tab. By the time I landed in Boston I had the WebApp running perfectly. I used another application I wrote that simulated the vTeleports to code against since I could not access the lab equipment (it was in the loading dock at EMCWorld).

I arrived at EMCWorld a couple days before the big day (Monday Keynote) and wrote the UI for the new monitoring tab. After the equipment was live on stage, I loaded everything up (with Spellicy and Chad standing right by).

And it worked. 500 VM’s VMotioned in ~20 minutes, all live on the massive high-def screens on stage. The plugin worked. The teleport logic worked. It moved quickly. And my new monitoring tab looked perfect.

I can’t remember anything I have ever done working on the first try so I was beside myself in excitement. In a moment I will always remember, Chad turned to me and said “Nick, you are a freak. You know that?” Coming from a Master of technology like Chad Sakac you can’t get greater praise.

Fast forward to Monday @ 2:00pm… Pat Gelsinger, the new COO of EMC, was getting ready to walk out and introduce the world to the V-Plex. I was on the front row sweating bullets with Chris Horn and Stephen Spellicy on each side giving me encouragement. Behind me were three rows of my vSpecialist team- all arrayed in their cool shirts and representing what has to be the best group of technologists in the world today.

We were supposed to have a recorded video to use if something horrible happened. But we ran out of time to record it and Pat is the kind of guy who likes things live.

So here I am, sitting on the front row of an EMCWorld keynote. I am so new to this team I am not even through new hire training. And the COO of EMC is about to give a presentation on what is one of the most powerful technologies to be released by EMC, ever. This keynote demo is riding on the fact that:

  1. My plugin runs correctly
  2. My backend code executes the teleport workflow correctly.
  3. The vCenter and ESX servers do 500 VMotions without issue (and inside 22 minutes)
  4. And my WebApp is able to grab data and display it within vCenter without a hitch.

I am at this point thinking: “This is either one of the greatest moments of my career- or the moment I decide to switch to something else to do for a living.”

A few minutes later the moment of truth came. Chad joined Pat out on the stage. Chad talked about how cool it would be to move running virtual machines between datacenters and across storage resources. The main screen displays the VI Client console. He right clicks on the Datacenter. Moves down and selects the “vTeleport” option. And then he clicks on “Teleport to Hopkinton” (VM’s were in Boston). Now I knew that it takes about 10-18 seconds before VM’s start moving (inventory, location logic, etc). Chad knew this too and as they chatted for a bit about what was going to happen as I held my breath and I think almost all the other vSpecialists did too.

And then it happened. They started moving just as they were supposed to. All of a sudden I started getting slaps on the back and arms from my team as I stared up at those huge screens and thought: “Wow, it worked.” Chad and Pat moved on to talk about the use cases and progress. But for me, all the work and late hours had come to fruition. I was exhausted mentally and physically from the last month but absolutely overjoyed that all that work had paid off.

That moment was not mine. The team knew what I did but, that moment was a watershed for a lot of people in and outside of EMC. Virtualization is a core part of the future and the vSpecialist team as a group is uniquely staffed and positioned to make this future a reality. All I did was demonstrate in my small way what my team is capable of in many many different ways. That moment was for my team.

There were several other moments that I will never forget:

Later that evening the vSpecialists as a team were meeting at a restaurant for dinner. I had headed back to the hotel to change and literally passed out on the bed exhausted. I awoke with a start about 50 minutes later and realized I was late for the dinner.

I texted a buddy that was there telling him I was on the way and hopped in a taxi to the restaurant. As I walked up the stairs into the dining room I saw my team occupying two very long tables across the room. As I started to walk across the room, I was just some punk geek who overslept and felt like a heel for showing up late. And something happened that has never happened to me before. The entire team stood up and started clapping and cheering as I walked towards them. I didn’t even know how to react so I just hustled to my seat and sat down while looking embarrassed. I think the moment I realized they were cheering me, as I stood in the middle of that big room, I almost cried (yeah call me sappy). To be honored is one thing. But, to be honored by a group of people you hold in the most respect is something entirely different.

Later that week in our team meeting Chad thanked me for my work on the Celerra VSA and VPlex demo. I got rewarded with an iPad and another standing ovation from my team.

All the time I am thinking to myself: “Two years ago I walked around EMCWorld and would have never imagined anything like this could happen.”

So there is my story of one of the greatest weeks of my short career. I can’t imagine working for a better group of people or a company that is as well positioned to take me places. It is amazing what a great product, a great team, and a little luck mixed with some good old fashioned hard work can do.

Couple things I want to clear up since I get asked:

The vTeleport plugin used at EMCWorld was actually quite simple. There is a *real* plugin in the works (which I have seen personally) which is actually quite awesome. Mine was a way to demonstrate what is coming. I am turning the code I used for this into something quite cool for the VMware community (free cool tool). Look for it before VMworld this year.

The VPlex demo was REAL. There was no video and no net. Everything was live. Having probably done more VMotions on a VPlex than anyone outside the people that created it, I can say this; it is awesome and is almost too easy to forget it is even there.

It would be really cool if you could share your own stories of similar awesome moments you have had. Feel free to leave a comment or link to your own story. And thank you to all who attended EMCWorld.



8 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Poorman and I were sitting in the audience, waiting to see how it was going to turn out. We were totally stoked for you when things started to crank!

    When Spellicy asked me to come up to Nashua to help him out, I never thought it was for something as cool as Pat’s keynote. I got up there and he said “I need to create 500 VM’s, can you help with that?” “Suuuure.. I can probably hack together some Powershell relatively easily” Mind you, I don’t write code that often, but I pulled together the V1 version that used a CSV file in about an hour or so.
    Then I went home and thought thru the issues and re-wrote more code for V2. After that, I was getting a bit stuck and I called on Alan Renouf to help. He tossed in a bunch more code.

    I finished up by steal..er..using code that LucD wrote for dealing with Async tasks. It worked awesome. Spellicy christened it “The BabyMaker” and we, Alan and I, were the proud fathers. 🙂 It was on the show floor that I told Alan what the coding was for. His jaw dropped and he said “I’d have put more effort into it had I know that!” hahaha He did awesome.

    I look forward to seeing all the other code and the changes you made!

    Again, congrats for an incredible job. I wish I had the patience and skill to bang out code like you.


  2. Nick, you are a freak, and you know I mean that in the most positive, complimentary way possible!

    We’re lucky to have you on the team – there’s no doubt on that! There will be more fun, more adventures, more crisis events that eventually we resolve together…

    One other small anecdote – remember the moment we’re backstage after the main part of the VPLEX demo before I went back up for the IaaS demo using Unified Infrastructure Manager and Redwood? I ran into you, and we were looking to see if it would wrap up the remaining vMotions in time for the close out. I thought to myself: “OK, 200 VMs to go, at 2.5s each, ~ 8.5 mins, need to stretch this out just a wee bit”, watched the clock on stage, and it was all seamless – the Redwood demo finished, looked at the clock on stage, switched over to the laptop, and bam – it was done on the last VM.

    Was my honour to be working hand in hand with you, and your peers.

    Thanks again!

  3. Nick! What a wonderful story. Glad to see Pat G found out about your role. A few others wanted to say thank you, too. (You know by now we pride ourselves on passion, innovation, and success. Man, you delivered!)

    See here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umSZQXqSRFA for a short message from

    Howard Elias, EMC President of Services & Cloud
    Mark Fredrickson, EMC VP of Corp Comm
    Mark Quigley, EMC SVP, RSA Security
    Brian Gallagher, EMC Storage President
    Frank Hauck, EMC EVP Storage Products
    Sanjay Mirchandani, EMC CIO
    Kurt Grazewski, EMC VP Manufacturing Ops
    Bill Teuber, EMC Vice Chairman
    Joe Tucci, CEO


    You ROCK!


  4. Nick — I just stumbled upon this post.

    Working with you on this project was truly a pleasure. When Chris Horn introduced us, I had no knowledge of your capabilities or no frame of reference as to who you were, but I quickly realized you are beyond bright and have an incredible work ethic. Both attributes I highly admire in you.

    You have an excitement and enthusiasm for technology that is pretty much unmatched — like a young Pat Gelsinger (read his book if you haven’t already). The thing to remember is that those crazy ideas mentioned above wouldn’t have worked without a master like yourself at the helm. You have an amazing talent for understanding requirements and being able to execute on a dime. I was never nervous for your code, only hoping that the keyboard wouldn’t lock up on Chad’s demo station!

    I look forward to the next project that we get to work on together @ EMC.


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